TLDR: High-powered penalty killers, along with goals from Backstrom, Hagelin, and another empty-netter from Eller lift the Capitals to a 3-1 win over powerhouse Winnipeg Jets, Copley wins 5th straight start.
Your Washington Capitals rounded out this short two-game home stand with a 3-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets. With a New York Islanders loss last night, the Caps are holding onto first place in the Metropolitan Division by a four-point margin. As we look ahead to the final 13 games of the season, it is becoming increasingly important for the Capitals to win these all-important division and conference games that loom ahead.
Many asserted that tonight’s game versus the Winnipeg Jets was a preview to what could possibly be a Stanley Cup Final match-up. The last time these two teams played, both T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov ended up on the receiving end of some vicious hits. Neither Jets’ players received supplemental discipline, and Caps ultimately dropped that game 3-1, on the road. Despite having not seen Caps’ backup goaltender Pheonix Copley since February 24th, head coach Todd Reirden chose him over Braden Holtby to allow the veteran time to rest before the playoffs begin. Both the Caps and Jets boast offensive firepower, so a high-scoring game was to be expected. Just under five minutes into the period, a perfect screen in front of Jets’ goaltender Connor Hellebuyck allowed Nicklas Backstrom to score his 18th goal of the season. With the goal, Backstrom now has points in 5 of his last 6 games, including 3 goals in his last 3 games.
— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) March 10, 2019
Just moments later, Mathieu Perreault scored on a wide open net, giving the Jets the equalizer. For the majority of the period, the Capitals were able to effectively neutralize an explosive Jets team. Heavy forechecking and puck-nabbing allowed the Caps to comfortably settle into the first period. However, it was Winnipeg that received the first power play of the night, as Brett Connolly would go off for tripping. Moments later, as Tom Wilson jumped on the ice and played the puck, the Capitals would be penalized for too-many-men-on-the-ice. The Jets would have the two-man advantage for 1:34, and would be a man up for the remaining 26 seconds. The first real test of the night for Copley would be one that he ultimately would pass, with flying colors. Neither team would strike again in the remaining four minutes, and therefore the score would settle at 1-1 heading into the first intermission.
The second period started off very much like the first; fast and aggressive. Despite the Capitals seriously needing a power play, the Jets would receive yet another man-advantage. Top-tier penalty killer Carl Hagelin would go off for tripping, and the Caps’ penalty kill would be tested yet again. The refereeing was sub-par at best, as they seemed to turn a blind eye to every penalty the Jets should have been called for. Luckily, the Caps successfully killed the penalty. Finally, the Capitals would be gifted their first power play, as Perreault was sent to the box for tripping. The boys in red would not retake their lead. With just a couple of registered shots halfway through the period, it was apparent they Capitals desperately needed to improve their zone exits and entries. Carl Hagelin would be called again for another minor penalty, but the refs would not penalize any Jets players for unsportsmanlike conduct nor instigating. Just as the penalty expired, Hagelin would jump out of the box, snag a breakaway, and score his second goal with the Capitals, giving them the 2-1 advantage.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) March 11, 2019
Despite the Jets doubling up on shots on goal, it would be the Capitals with the 2-1 lead as the second period came to a close.
Leading 2-1 at the start of the third and final period, we all hoped the good guys could hold the lead, if not improve it. Patrik Laine was called early on for hooking, and so the Caps would get just their second power play of the game. However, they would not convert. A nerve-wracking third period for both sides, the Jets would challenge a potential goal with just over 10 minutes remaining. We believed that the referees whistled down the play, and waived off the goal as Copley was pushed. For what felt like the first lucky strike of the night for the Capitals, the call was ultimately upheld, and the score remained 2-1. Dmitry Orlov would go off for tripping with just over two minutes left in the period, and so the Jets would get the man advantage. Winnipeg would elect to pull their goalie for the two-man advantage, but Lars Eller would pot his 10th goal of the season. Two empty net goals in two games by the Tiger to seal the deal? We’ll take it.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) March 11, 2019
The 3-1 win for the Capitals mark seven straight, and Pheonix Copley once again, proved to the disbelievers that he is more than capable of stopping offensive powerhouses such as the Winnipeg Jets.
FiCP’s Three Takeaways of the Game
- The Caps penalty kill is improving, but the sheer number of penalties being called against us is terrifying. We need to get back to playing more disciplined hockey, even if some of them are soft calls.
- Carl Hagelin is fitting in just fine.
- People seriously need to stop discrediting Pheonix Copley. He is a worthy and capable goaltender. You cannot claim to ‘love him’ as a back-up, and then criticize when he is picked to start.